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Felony charges, no bail for YouTube threats against police

A 19-year-old East Liberty man had been charged with drug and weapons offenses, along with fleeing and eluding police. According to the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, he reacted by getting together with a friend and posting a rap video on YouTube which included lyrics threatening to kill Pittsburgh police officers and called out two Highland Park officers by name.

That performance brought some new criminal charges: conspiracy, retaliation, terroristic threats and witness intimidation. He has never been convicted of any crime.

Yesterday, his defense attorney asked the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas to release the young man on bond, arguing that he had never missed a court date and was not a flight risk, and had no prior convictions. Bail was denied without explanation.

But can prosecutors truly expect to get a conviction on any of the criminal charges related to the video? Probably not, said his defense lawyer.

"It was an offensive song, a distasteful song," he told reporters. "But when it's all said and done, I believe it will be protected by the First Amendment."

That is likely the case. Although the lyrics were apparently specific enough that the officers named in the song could take the threats personally, it's awfully hard to believe they could take them seriously. Threats against police in rap songs are nothing new, after all, and this teenager is no hardened criminal likely to carry them out. He's more likely a frustrated young man exhibiting poor judgment.

Nevertheless, the teen will remain in the Allegheny County Jail until the underlying charges -- and the alleged YouTube threats -- are resolved.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Man in threatening video denied bail," April 17, 2013

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